The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Raff: Violin Concerto no.1 in B minor op.161 (original version), Suite for solo violin and orchestra op.181, La fée d’amour
Monday, 01 September 2008
Tobias Ringborg (violin) Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra, Andrea Quinn (conductor)
Sterling CDS 1075-2
Raff’s prolific output is often described as ‘eclectic’. In part, this is a tribute to his profuse writing in a variety of genres, and a style that attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable and unite the ‘classical’ and ‘new’ German schools of composition. At times this strategy can result in tastelessness and trivia, and this disc provides evidence of both. In many ways, the music is admirable, especially the concerto (here in its original version), while the Suite op.181 is a curious blend of 19th-century texture and harmony with passages suggestive of Bach’s unaccompanied violin repertoire. For me, La fée d’amour fares less well, being blighted by facile writing in the first movement (especially the frequent descending chromatic scales).
Tobias Ringborg’s playing is highly persuasive, with a dark and intense tone and, in several places, experimental use of features of 19th-century performing practice, such as the long, slow portamentos near the opening of the concerto, and slides to harmonics in the Minuet movement of the Suite. Ringborg evidences a passionate sound, although his tone can become rather harsh in more powerful passages. The Corrente movement of the Suite has some anxious intonational moments. Having said this, Raff’s considerable demands are well met. Andrea Quinn draws a clear and sensitive orchestral accompaniment, with some pleasing phrasing, especially near the opening of the Suite.
Overall, the disc, which is supported by informative booklet notes, is enjoyable and fills a gap in the repertoire. It is one I would happily recommend.
From the September 2008 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.